Tuesday, April 10, 2012

ASIO Natural Gas Generator for Backup

An interesting item which came up recently is that the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) wants to store 660,000 litres of diesel fuel for the backup generators at its new Canberra Headquarters (see: "Bid to store fuel at ASIO site" by Ewa Kretowicz, Canberra Times,April 7, 2012). There has been public concern expressed about the safety of storing this much fuel near a residential area. But in addition, if they need this much fuel, how large is the carbon footprint of the building going to be?

The Canberra Hospital are proposing to install a 3 MW trigeneration plant, powered by natural gas to produce electricity, hot water and air conditioning. Such plants are much more energy efficient (and less polluting) than cola fired mains electricity. The Hospital will retain its backup diesel generators, but with the gas powered trigeneration plant providing the main power source, the electricity grid will act in effect as a backup power supply for the hospital. Perhaps ASIO should consider this approach.

A reasonable setup for ASIO would be to have a gas powered trigeneration plant large rough to provide electricity heating and cooling for most days. The diesel generators and fuel supply could be reduced in size to just provide emergency power for the ICT systems and lighting (no air-conditioning) in the unlikely event that both the gas and mains electricity supplies fail simultaneously.

ASIO could also make use of the same technology as on ACTON buses, to store natural gas under pressure. A relatively small set of tanks could be used to provide one hour of gas supply, which would be sufficient to cover most interruptions to supply.

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